Five minutes with Caitlin Baker, Eggplant

Five minutes with Caitlin Baker, Eggplant

Caitlin Baker is the restaurant manager at Aubergine, Griffith, co-founder of Fk Spiders and director of Womxn of Wine CBR. Photo: Lean Timms.

Who’s Caitlin Baker? I’m the restaurant manager at Aubergine, Griffith. I am also the director of Womxn of Wine CBR and co-founder of Fk Spiders.

Best recent dining experience: Before locking in, I had lunch at Pilot in Ainslie, which was definitely the best meal I have eaten there since it opened. Such great vibes, just amazing taste and all the pairings were really cool. A few selections were the egg drop soup, ‘Bonito Bonito’, which is grilled Bonito with mulled onion and roasted butter sauce, massaman carrots and the dried duck with radicchio and celeriac puree.

We also recently had a fantastic takeaway from Ondine in Deakin which was fantastic, just super classic French. Everything was so well done; it was really delicious.

sweet sweet from pilot

Cute Cute from Pilot. Photo: Caitlin Baker.

Most embarrassing pantry item: Milk chocolate licorice balls. Okay, it’s not embarrassing that I have them, but it’s embarrassing that I eat (on average) four packs a week.

Must be purchased ingredient: Tinned tomatoes, good anchovies, butter and the special chickens two minutes noodles from Indomie. The first couple because they make whipping pasta and other dishes so easy.

Next big thing: The low ABV or low-alcohol movement. Everyone moves away from drinking so much and I think it’s a real skill to create drinks that are not alcohol dependent to be delicious but that are still interesting.

Favorite place for breakfast in ACT: I have two, so it’s either Rebel Rebel in Ainslie – their shawarma is my favorite – or also Intra, which my brother Sean owns, for their coffee, which is the best in town.

Enter Cafe

Caitlin reckons Intra has the best coffee in town. Photo: Intra.

My Canberra Food Secret: Rubicon and Griffith. It may not be a secret for many, but it is a secret for my age group. Owen Kenyon’s wine list is incredible and if you will steak fries, it’s definitely the best in town.

Greatest culinary influence: My big brother Patrick. He has always been an amazing chef and I remember he made the most incredible croquembouche when he was around 15 or 16. He really opened my eyes to all sorts of crazy mad ideas.

I was a super pushy kid and he really got me into food and out of my comfort zone.

ALSO READ: Five minutes with Dash Rumble, Pilot restaurant and bar

Favorite cookbook: Instead of cookbooks, I have favorite wine books. Vinpige by Victoria James is about her experience as a female sommelier in New York on the fine dining scene. Another is Natural wine for the people by Alice Feiring, which I recommend to lots of people who are just starting to get into wine.

Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Sun Jang, sous chef at Aubergine. She is such a weapon and she runs the kitchen like a chef. Dash Rumble from Pilot is also the reason I started working in hospitality. She trained me from being particularly hopeless to actually doing something good for my job. My partner Lucas Woods is another – he is so talented and focused. Lach Cutting from Under Bakery is another, and so is Nick Smith from Bar Rochford. After all my travels abroad, it’s still my favorite bar in the world!

What’s on the menu this week: With Aubergine closed for lockdown, we have made a lot of chicken farce bowls with ramen noodles and greens at home.

Caitlin Baker with colleagues out in front of the restaurant

Caitlin (third from left) with her 27 Elliotts colleagues in Edinburgh. Photo: Caitlin Baker.

Where should I go next: I want to go back to Edinburgh, I lived there for a year and so many of our friends have now opened new venues, so I want to go back and check them out as well as visit the places Lucas and I worked.

Right of death meal: Sourdough, from Fhior in Edinburgh, with lots of good butter and vegemite.

My COVID-19 answer: We used to make a menu where you had to choose what you had for each course, but we moved to a set to reduce waste, which meant we could get fewer employees to work in the kitchen. It has also made the service easier.

My really simple recipe tip: My partner told me not to say this, but I do it anyway: Add butter to your baked beans and stir it through until it melts. Just try it.

Eggplant is located at 18 Barker Street, Griffith. It is open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday from 6:00 to late … when the ACT is not locked.

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